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NEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING (USA 2016) ***1/2
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clara Mamet, Selena Gomez
Review by Gilbert Seah
NEIGHBOURS the Seth Rogen comedy with Zac Efron as a frat neighbour was one of the best comedies of 2014. It featured the funniest sequence in a comedy that year – the Robert De Niro segment in which Efron, Dave Franco and gang all dress up as De Niro to taunt Rogen and wife for calling the cops the night before to lodge a complaint about their party.
NEIGHBOURS 2 has tough shoes to fill. But thanks to good writing from a script credited to 5 writers, the sequel makes it. Jokes like the air bags and the Dean Carol Gladstone character (Lisa Kudrow) from the first film are brought back into the sequel. If a few jokes do not work, one can be sure another couple will in a few minutes. With hardly any time for the audience to take a breather, NEIGHBOURS 2 comes across as intense as the dressed up clown that shows up at a tailgate party, a segment that is almost as funny as the De Niro sequence.
The success of this film lies a great deal on the comedic potential of both Efron and Chloe Grace Moretz. Efron plays the older frat member, now graduated and unable to find a decent job and living space while Moretz plays his younger female version looking to party all the time. Teddy Sanders (Efron) helps her at first in renting her sorority house that just happens to be next to the house that Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) is selling. But Teddy switches to Mac’s side to help him evict the sisters sorority. It is a fairly simple plot but with plenty of comedy potential, with the setups well staged. Efron has proven his mettle in comedy as in the first NEIGHBOURS and the recent DIRTY GRANDPA. Efron can even be funny in moments demanding the audience to show sympathy for his character. Teddy, for example, shows genuine puzzlement on why eggs get hard whereas pasta gets soft when dunked in boiling water, Moretz, however, has the straighter role. Her character serves to anchor the story. Her sorority sisters, Beth (Dope’s Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) and other sorority members are left with the task of providing the laughter.
NEIGHBOURS 2 also lifts comedy to a level of political correctness. The gay jokes are largely positive, with Teddy’s best friend, Pete (Franco) coming out and getting married to his new husband. On the female side, the sisterly bond fosters positive feminism while male chauvinism (such as in the depiction of girls as whores in colleges) is frowned upon. There is also a comedic discussion on the difference between a male teen vs. a female teen losing his or her virginity.
While NEIGHBOURS 2 is funny enough, its desperation to top the original is obvious. The film grabs at any opportunity for a joke, even to have didoes dressed as princesses to get a laugh. The result is the film looking a bit ‘all over the place’ compared to the more focused original despite the almost equal high to hit miss laughter ratio.
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